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COVID-19 and the Workplace: Frequently Asked Questions

Originally posted on March 3rd, 2020 by  at Global HR Lawyers – In A Flash – Matthews Dinsdale

The following provides general guidance to employers in dealing with the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the workplace. All should appreciate that this is a fluid situation and we will continue to update our clients as matters change. For specific issues, please speak with your Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

Where can employers get regular updates on COVID-19?

The Government of Canada’s Public Health Agency

Infection Prevention and Control Canada (ipac)

Is COVID-19 in Canada?

As of March 3, 2020, COVID-19 has been confirmed in three provinces: British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

While the Public Health Agency of Canada expects those numbers to increase, without sustained human-to-human transmission, most Canadian employees are not at significant risk of infection.

Can an employer restrict international travel?

As of March 3, 2020, the Government of Canada has posted travel health notices for non-essential travel to areas of China, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, Northern Italy, Singapore and South Korea due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Based on these advisories, employers should restrict business travel to these areas. Should employees travel to these regions for person reasons, they should be advised that their ability to return to the workplace will be assessed upon their return to Canada.

Can an employer stop employees who travelled in an area affected by COVID-19 from returning to work?

Depending on where they have travelled and the nature of the employer’s business, an employer may assess risks in the circumstances, and could restrict an employee from immediately returning to the workplace. For example, an employer who operates a senior’s community will have a dramatically different assessment than an employer operating a warehouse.

Prior to an employee returning to work, they should be asked to confirm that they have no symptoms of illness. Again, depending on the workplace and the risk associated with potential COVID-19 exposure, the employee may be asked to self-isolate even absent symptoms depending on where they have travelled.

Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If the employee has these symptoms, they should seek medical attention and should not be permitted to return to work until they are confirmed by medical testing to either not be suffering from COVID-19 or that they no longer carry the virus.

If an employer holds an employee without symptoms out of work, is there a requirement to still compensate the employee?

This will depend on the circumstances, including where the employee has travelled from, the nature of the specific workplace, alternatives available (i.e. working from home) and any potential collective agreement requirements. While each situation will have to be assessed individually, there will be circumstances where holding an employee out of service, without pay, may be deemed reasonable.

What if an employee has COVID-19 and cannot work?

Where an employee contracts COVID-19 and is unable to work, an employer must grant any applicable legislative leave to the employee, in addition to meeting any sick leave obligations outlined in employment agreements or collective agreements.

What if employees refuse to work because they are afraid of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace?

Employers have a positive obligation to take reasonable care in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of employees under occupational health and safety legislation. Where an employee has a reasonable basis to believe that there is a dangerous condition in the workplace, or that their duties present a danger to their health and safety, the employee may be able to refuse to attend work or perform certain duties.

In the event of a work refusal, the employer must respond in accordance with occupational health and safety legislation, which response will include an investigation into the concerns and, if appropriate, adopting measures to eliminate or reduce the workplace danger. This investigation will, in large part, be based upon the current scientific understanding of COVID-19 and the specific facts in the individual workplace. No reprisal for properly exercising a health and safety right may occur.

Can an employer fire an employee if they contract COVID19?

No. Employers may not terminate an employee or otherwise discriminate against an employee due to physical disability (which includes certain illnesses) under human rights legislation.

What if an employer needs to replace sick employees on a temporary basis to operate?

An employer can hire employees on a temporary basis. An employer may also ask healthy employees to work additional hours, provided the employer is complying with legislative provisions regarding overtime and excessive hours of work.

The time to prepare for such a contingency is now: employers should be assessing how many employees they require to operate effectively and what will happen if a large number of employees are unable to attend work.

Can an employer force employees to work from home?

Whether or not an employer can direct all or a portion of its workforce to work from home will depend on the reasons for the request. For example, if there has been potential exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, it may be reasonable to request certain employee self-isolate and work from home for at least a 14 day period.

Can an employer close their business due to COVID-19 outbreak?

An employer must ensure a safe working environment. Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to close a business location. An employer’s obligation for providing notice or pay in lieu of notice to employees will be governed by the specific facts of each case.

Do employers have to buy personal protective equipment for employees?

Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment. If employees run the risk of becoming infected at work, the employer must provide personal protective equipment.

Previous Mathews Dinsdale articles on COVID-19

Workplace Pandemic Plans: What Employers Should Know

Novel Coronavirus: What Employers Need to Know

If you have any questions about this topic or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

How Employers Can Support Students in Their School-to-Work Transition. An Interview with Jesse Sahota, Career Development and Relationship Manager

Career educators and coaches play a vital part in the success of developing future talent. This support doesn’t end once students finish their degrees – career educators continue to assist students in their school-to-work transition, and this benefits not only students but also employers. Though, it’s important for employers to be involved in career planning as well. From employer branding, showcasing workplace culture, holding events, managing campus ambassadors to connecting with students before they even start their first day can have a great impact.  We explored this topic with Jesse Sahota, Career Development Relationship Manager in the Engineering Co-op and Career Services office at McMaster University, who also won Career Educator of the Year at the 2019 TalentEgg Awards. Read on to learn how Jesse supports his students, fosters relationships with employers and his advice on ways employers can connect with students to assist in their school-to-work transition.

Starting His Career with Purpose

When Jesse first envisioned his career, he believed he was going to work in the advertising industry one day, “designing commercials for Audi or working for Kellogg’s redesigning their Fruit Loops cereal boxes,” he says. During his final year at university, he landed a job in a wealth management firm as a recruiter, which eventually led him to his passion for helping others find their careers. And what a long and meaningful career it has been for Jesse so far! With over 15 years of experience in Career Coaching and Education, Jesse’s current role is comprised of three pillars that facilitate student success. He works to pursue new business development leads while maintaining existing partnerships in the engineering and business communities. The second pillar is coaching students using personalized strategies. “Pain points differ depending on where the student is at in their recruitment life cycle,” Jesse says. Whether students come with generic resumes and cover letters, or are looking to get more involved on campus, Jesse helps them on their career journey. Finally, the third pillar to Jesse’s role is collaborating with employers who are looking to create a stronger brand on campus.

“Our department’s “Employer of the Week” series brings employers to campus where I assist in orchestrating events, such as employers in the lobby, resume roasts, bus trips, Instagram takeovers and lunch and learn workshops.”

Supporting Students on their Career Journey

Jesse’s department supports students through a variety of workshops and individual appointments to prep them before the start of their co-op work term. “In Engineering Co-op and Career Services at McMaster University, the transition from the classroom to the shop floor or boardroom is exceptionally smooth,” he comments.

“Having been in this industry and in my current role for so long, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of our employer partners on-site. These meetings give me the opportunity to provide a unique perspective and “inside scoop” when coaching students on what to expect at their new job.”

One of the most memorable career highlights was taking five students to Silicon Valley in San Francisco for their Big Ideas Contest. Students were given the opportunity to learn from top innovators and develop their professional skills. Five students, management staff and the Dean of Engineering visited Tesla, Apple, Google, Facebook, Corning and several start-ups during their trip. This is a great example of how Career Educators are creating experiences for their students to showcase their innovative engineering solutions, build invaluable networking opportunities and learn about the possibilities. While Jesse and his team created this opportunity for students to learn, he ended up taking away a lot for himself too.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me as it provided the opportunity to connect with McMaster Engineering alumni and further solidified my understanding that our graduates are changing the world.”

What Can Employers Do for Students?

While career educators help to set students up for success in launching their careers, Jesse shares some ways in which employers can make students feel welcome and valued before they even start working. Jesse comments that not only will this showcase the organizations’ culture, but it will also prepare students for the road ahead. Reaching out to students after they’ve accepted their offer, even if it’s well in advance of their start date, can have a positive impact.

“A welcome email with details regarding what to expect on their first day is a great way to get the student excited about their new adventure by winning their heart and mind. Many organizations are taking onboarding seriously by allocating a personal mentor to each new hire – a strategy that I find highly effective.”

Another way Jesse suggests employers get involved in students’ transition is during the offer stage.

“When employers present an offer to a student, I would suggest that they invite the student to their site, provide them with a tour of their facility, introduce the student to a mentor, connect them with the current student(s) that are working there, and take them out for lunch or coffee. This approach is an excellent way to strengthen the student’s commitment to the employer’s brand. It’s a win-win strategy.”

Build Your Brand Recognition – Get on Campus!

Providing the opportunity for students to connect with employers in-person is always a great strategy when it comes to recruiting the right talent and finding the best candidates to fill your talent pipeline.

“Employers are encouraged to come to campus and meet our students, run workshops, attend hackathons, partner with student groups and, ultimately, connect with career offices on campus. Getting in front of students and answering their questions in-person establishes a connection, builds stronger brand recognition, and these students can then become brand ambassadors for employers by telling their friends what they’ve learned.”

Whether you’re an employer looking to connect with and hire students or you’re a fellow Career Educator, you can learn from Jesse’s unique approach. “My career is something that I truly enjoy and I love knowing that I have had a hand in helping someone else find their dream job or career.”

Get in Touch

jsahota@mcmaster.ca

905-525-9140 ext 24432

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesse-sahota/

An Amplification of HR Legal Trends from the Last Decade

In our ever-changing workforce, it’s more important than ever for employers to stay on top of HR trends and what legal implications they may have on their organization, workplace culture and overall brand. We had the chance to speak with Greg McGinnis, Partner at Matthews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, about upcoming trends in employment law. What we discovered was that the trends from the latter half of the last decade are amplifying. Read on to see how. 

Although there have been many societal shifts within the last few years, Greg comments that there really aren’t any new or radical changes in employment law, but rather previous trends are continuing. He does mention, however, that there’s a common theme or phenomenon happening as a result of previous trends, like the #MeToo movement, legalization of Cannabis and diversity in the workforce, which is fostering an increased demand for flexibility and zero tolerance for toxic workplaces. 

Flexibility and Accommodation

“The main trend, if I can call it that, is that people are looking for flexibility in their work. They’re looking for flexibility in terms of hours of work, days of work, time off when they need it. The big trend is that employees want their work to fit in with their lives, and so employers are increasingly having to accommodate that kind of flexibility. That comes in all kinds of different forms. One form would be people who have young children, who want the time for child care or to attend events in their kids’ lives. Then you also have, especially in Canada, a large population of people who come from other places originally and they travel, so they want to have longer periods of time off to visit family or just travel. There’s an increasing trend towards flexibility at work, where it could be accommodated.” 

“The idea that work is Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 and you better just show up – that concept has slowly been eroding for a long time and it’s continuing to erode. There are of course jobs where you need to be [at work] for certain time periods, but even then, people will want extended time off. We see this in every domain, from factory workers to office workers. People are demanding that their personal life and needs are reflected at work.” 

Zero Tolerance for Toxic Workplaces

As a result of the same societal factors that gave rise to the #MeToo movement, Greg has found that the number of complaints being made that require the employer to carry out investigations has significantly increased. “I would say the #MeToo movement is a reflection of the same underlying phenomenon that people aren’t prepared to be treated poorly or suffer in silence. There’s next to no tolerance for toxic workplace behaviour. It is increasingly important for employers to ensure their workplace provides a positive, constructive atmosphere for people to work in and if they don’t do it, they will be facing a requirement to invest in workplace investigations…There’s a whole raft of time-consuming expensive consequences that can result from not dealing with these problems.” 

Diversity 

Diversity is an important value for many organizations. In Greg’s experience, diversity hiring has to be managed effectively by most employers to ensure all job seekers are given an equal opportunity to join a positive workplace, but that’s not always easy to achieve and maintain once your workforce becomes diverse. “Diversity has an impact on workplace culture because when you have new people or experiences, people come to work with different cultural expectations or behaviours that may require an adjustment on the part of the employer.”

Once you recruit a diverse workforce, you need to ensure your policies are, and the workplace is, welcoming, accommodating and, again, flexible. “You have a diverse workforce, you need a diverse workforce, then you need to find ways to reconcile new and different expectations where you need to get the work done. The challenge of diversity is that you don’t really know what’s next, you have to adapt to the people you are employing the best you can, and they need to adapt to you too.” 

Cannabis: Biggest Issue That’s a Non-issue

Now that Cannabis has been legal in Canada for over a year, there have been minimal impacts on employment law, according to Greg. “Cannabis is the big nothing. It may have a long term impact, but the short term impact has been next to zero.”

“It’s not that all of a sudden people are bringing their drugs to work or consuming drugs in a different way. Most employers in anticipation of the legalization of cannabis took another look at their fitness for duty policies, and perhaps even their testing policies and gave some thought on how to approach that. Then legalization occurred and people braced themselves for the onslaught of stoners as if all of a sudden we were all going to turn into Cheech and Chong and it just didn’t happen!”

“Outside of safety-sensitive positions where someone could be seriously injured or killed or your actions could result in someone being seriously injured, or death or property damage, the issue of cannabis has not made any difference. And I think the reason for that is – cannabis is just one intoxicant. There’s a wide array of drugs out there, legal and illegal, and the legalization of cannabis has had a marginal impact on the way cannabis impairment, specifically, has been addressed when it’s been detected.”

Gig Economy

There were concerns about the ‘gig’ economy and the impact on the career prospects for millennial and Gen Z workers, but in regards to employment law, it’s really only made employers consider instituting more flexible work environments. 

“My perspective on the gig economy is that it’s provided opportunities for people to work in small amounts on their schedule that competes with the regular employment pool. So people who want more flexibility can get it by becoming a gig worker. I think the gig economy has expanded opportunities for people. [Employers] have to recognize that their employees can go and do consulting or gig work as an alternative to regular employment. So it forces more flexibility onto employers as well.” 

 

With the evolution and expansion of trends from the last few years, Greg notes that in the legal sphere, changes in the law are harder to predict. “The world of work is driven more by cultural change than by legal change. We’re not seeing a lot of radical legal changes now or anticipated in the future. The society is changing, so we have to respond to that.” It’s important that employers are staying on the cutting edge of emerging and continuing societal and workplace trends, especially when considering incoming talent will come into the workforce with new and sometimes challenging expectations for employers to meet. 


For more TalentEgg Legal Briefs, be sure to subscribe to our monthly employer and career educator newsletter. 

TalentEgg launches Canada’s first candidate showcase featuring video profiles allowing students and grads to communicate strengths beyond the resume, improve visibility and directly connect to employers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Aug. 1, 2019 (Toronto, Canada). TalentEgg is pleased to announce Canada’s first talent marketplace featuring video-based features allowing candidates to introduce themselves beyond the resume and get noticed by employers. The platform helps Gen Y & Z candidates to tell their story in their own words by providing convenient, easy to use functionality that allows them to record their video introduction, upload their resume, and respond to interview requests from employers, from any device, on their schedule. With the TalentEgg Candidate Video Showcase, recruiters and employers now have the ability to search the job seekers’ video profiles with resumes and invite them to a video interview directly from the profile.

Video interviewing is now a mainstream assessment method in recruitment and student and grad job seekers are practicing and developing their digital interviewing skills while at University and College. Now they have an opportunity to put those skills to work in the real world and on their own terms on a platform where they can control their own message. The TalentEgg Candidate Video Showcase offers the candidate the ability to upload their resume and record a video introduction directly into their personal candidate profile. They can include a descriptive paragraph about themselves and credentials which are displayed to the employer and is searchable based on location, school, year of graduation, program of study and preferred industries, or by relevant keywords.

“Employers are looking for more efficient methods to recruit and interview graduates and improve campus recruiting efficiency. Students and grads are looking for new ways to get noticed by employers outside of traditional methods. Schools are looking for more ways to help their students and grads make the transition from school to work effectively by showcasing great candidates to employers of choice,” says Mary Barroll, President of TalentEgg. “TalentEgg’s Candidate Video Showcase brings all of these features and capabilities together at one digital job marketplace destination. We believe it’s a real win-win-win and an exceptional opportunity for schools, employers and job seekers alike, and a gamechanger in the campus recruitment space.”

“The resume is no longer an adequate tool for representing the potential that candidates can bring to the workplace. Job seekers are increasingly frustrated with their inability to differentiate themselves in their job search. They are eager to share more about themselves by answering questions and sharing other aspects of their character that, in the case of students and graduates, can supplement their sometimes limited work history,” says Catharine Fennell, CEO, videoBIO. “We are pleased to provide the video technology to support TalentEgg’s job marketplace to advance connections between employers and job seekers.”

To learn more and add a profile visit https://talentegg.ca/register

For more information please contact:

Mary Barroll
President, TalentEgg Inc.
Mary@talentegg.ca
416-358-3991

Natasha Reichen
VP of Operations, TalentEgg Inc.
Natasha@talentegg.ca
416-875-8055

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